Selfies are Sad

There’s something sad about the Selfie. Think about it. Either there’s no one you can find to take your picture, or you’re such a narcissist that others mean nothing to you, in front of, or behind, the camera.

I’m thinking, of course, of the ‘pure’ Selfie, where there’s no one else in view. ‘Selfies with…’ I can forgive. But give me ‘Otheries’ any day. I’m much more interested in looking back at who I was with, than in capturing my own presence in front of somewhere or someone famous.

It’s a sad reflection of our times that all that matters is where we ourselves have been, what we ourselves have done, not that we’ve been there, done that, with others.

Perhaps it’s technology that’s made us more isolated and anti-social. Technology now brings the world to us, in sounds, words and pictures, wherever we may be and that means we no longer have to go out and find the real world, and its occupants

I remember the arrival of the Sony Walkman in the 1970s. Until then, no one walked the streets in his own sound world. At first, those who did, seemed mad. Indeed, David Hockney used the idea as an image of isolation in his evocation of Bedlam (London’s 18th Century Mental Asylum) for Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in 1975.


But things have only gone from bad to worse. Look at your fellow passengers in the Metro (you’d be the only one looking, probably). Not only are they wearing headphones, but they’re bent over their mobiles, offering up Selfies to Facebook, where, probably, their whole life is laid out, lived without actual contact.

Below, you’ll see the kind of Selfie I do admire. Yes, it’s a Selfie of a kind but it’s also an Otherie. Don’t suggest that Rembrandt would have been the most prolific Selfie-taker if technology had made it possible. Here’s a challenge: if someone can take a Selfie as profound as this one, then I promise I’ll eat my gadgets, every one. (A Selfie with a Rembrandt self-portrait in the background doesn’t count.)


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